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Jindal Shakey on National Stage

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Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Bobby Jindal had an uphill fight to begin with this past Tuesday evening when he was the Republican pick to give a response to the President’s State of the Union speech. He was thrown into the lion’s den to give reaction to comments of a popular president, just coming into office, with a major segment of the American public pulling for him and giving him high marks. No matter what Jindal might have said, he really could not, and did not gain any traction or score any substantive points.

Jindal was called on to mouth the national party line, and right now, that line is a big stumbling block for the GOP. They are dealing with a President whose popularity ratings stay above 60% in every major recent poll. Tuesday night, MSNBC tracked the reaction of both Obama voters and McCain voters in several focus groups around the country. Both sides were consistently and solidly positive throughout Obama’s speech. In fact, when the President talked about unfreezing credit markets and ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, McCain voters were stronger for the President that the Obama group. The Republicans are trying to mould an alternative to a President who, so far, seems to be right on with an acceptable message to a solid majority of the country, leaving Jindal little wiggle room to respond.

In the focus groups, McCain voters were consistent in liking most of what Jindal had to say. But he lost support even among Republicans when he attacked “National Democrats” and “Democratic leaders in Washington.” In one of the focus groups reporting, with balanced Democratic and Republican voters, three out of thirty two gave Jindal high marks, preferring Obama’s governing over Jindal.

Jindal had several problems to deal with. First, he had just heard the President’s message minutes earlier before he was called on to respond. So he was preparing a rebuttal to programs and comments by the President that Jindal could only “assume” would be discussed.

Second, as part of the offer by the Republican congressional leadership to even have the opportunity of giving the high profile response, Jindal was obligated to include a litany of GOP talking points. And that became a problem for him. He was obligated to rehash the standard Republican line that tax cuts are the only answer to everything ailing the economy. His proposals for creating jobs were “lowering income tax rates for working families, cutting taxes for small businesses and strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers and stabilizing home values by creating a tax credit for homebuyers.”

But there’s a problem with Jindal’s (or the GOP’s speech writers’) reasoning. Credit markets are frozen, particularly in Louisiana. It’s really tough to borrow money. So businesses are not investing, small businesses are not hiring and people are losing their jobs are unable to find new ones. Many people are hurting and looking for answers. Jindal and the GOP just failed to put any real hope on the table. In short, there was a silence of substance.

The governor also tried to personalize his identity with a background narrative of his rise from a family of Indian immigrants. This was OK. But hard here to make any political headway. It’s kind of like saying: “You folks elected someone with a “˜poor black guy story.’ Well, I have a poor brown guy story.”

If you follow the thousand of responses to Jindal’s rebuttal on the internet, many who listened felt he was talking down to them and compared him to Mr. Rogers. Yes, he could have been more forceful and engaging. But don’t sell Mr. Rogers short. You may not know it, but according to snopes.com, the wimpy little guy on PBS “was a Navy Seal, combat proven in Vietnam”with supposedly “over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name.” And that long sleeve sweater? We are  told it was to cover a number of”tattoos on his forearm and biceps.If only many of these GOP verbal attackers who never served a day in the military could get so macho.

The GOP missed a real opportunity in staging Jindal’s rebuttal by not having him deliver his comments before a live audience. Style and image are important in staged events like this. The “talking head” format does not serve Jindal nearly as well as his more engaging manner talking to a crowd. The GOP could have easily arranged a large crowd to listen and cheer in the glow as TV cameras and flashbulbs. Obama fed off the energy of some 40 standing ovations with numerous rounds of applause. Jindal seemed condescending and a bit patronizing when talking directly into a camera with no supporters around. He missed an opportunity to use his ability as an orator to both evoke and then wield the energy of a live audience.

No strike outs or home runs here. Jindal raised his name recognition, but also opened himself up for continuing scrutiny. He is taking a lot of heat form political heads back home in Louisiana. Being a problem solving Governor should be his focus in the months to come. If he can show more results and less rhetoric, he will have much more to crow about in the future on a national stage.


Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish ““ too much handling will spoil it.”

Lao Tzu

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State ofLouisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at http://www.jimbrownla.com. Jim also has a new book out on his views of Louisiana. You can read about it and order it by going to www.jimbrownla.com. .

Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) fromNew Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.

8 Responses
  1. David Abramson


    As usual excellent insight…

    Also Jindal spoke with peculiar emphasis and inflection, as if some inept speech coach had underscored the wrong words. Jindal sounded weird, like an automaton, from instructions, not from the heart.

  2. Author : Thomas The Democratic Party has had more than its share of clueless ankle biters who’ve never really sacrificed nor even served in the military. Its an extremely long list. You might want to stick to the commentary about political show business.

  3. Hey, both parties are full of knee jerk patriots who have all the answers, but did not serve their country. We can include Cheney Newt, and Rush in that number as well as a long list of national wannabes from both parties who talk the talk, but have not walked the walk. If you did not serve in the military or have done extensive volunteer service for your country, fly an American flag on the front of your house, and drive an American car, you’ve got no business running for public office.

  4. Don W.

    Jim, as usual you are correct in your analysis. Gov. Jindal as he normally does, reads from scripts when he talks to the public. He needs to put the talking points away and truly speak his convictions from the heart. He looks like a remote control robot when he speaks from scripts prepared to appeal to right wing zealots of the Republincan Party. He is an intelligent man, therefore he needs to speak his true feelings, and stop the nutty talk in order to appeal to the right wing nuts. Secondly, the Governor should stop traveling around the country, and concentrate on the many problems facing Louisiana. This state needs true leadership right now.

  5. Richard Anderson

    We evidenced actions of a Governor (Bobby Jindal) that has also declared war on the most economically disadvantaged citizens in this state by denying unemployment compensation funds under the disguise of raising taxes. There are ways that this Executive could have helped ease the tax burden with tools that is in place by law. Since Mr. Jindal have chosen “NOT” to look out for the best interests of the people and pursue his personal agenda, Mr. Jindal has violated the oath he took and deserves to be “RECALLED” as Governor of Louisiana. We cannot afford to “WAIT” until the next election to get this state affairs in order if this Governor refuses to govern for the benefit of all. I understand the concerns of some Democratic Party members that suggests restraint and let the electoral process take care of itself but we can no longer afford to allow some of our fellow citizens to be thrown by the wayside like useless cattle
    at a time of severe economic calamity. Advocates of working people should be asking the Leaders of the Louisiana Democratic Party and leading private citizens to coordinate and facilitate actions designed to promptly restore dignity of our state government.If you care to do a poll, you will find that at least half of the people “FAVOR” the removal of Governor Bobby Jindal as Governor of Louisiana. It is time to restore Louisiana physically, mentally and reputationally as a great place to visit, live and raise a family. A movement toward contacting your Democratic Party Officials and Democratic Elected Officials to facilitate the actions (which include contacting your newspapers editors and radio talk shows such as Jim’s show) that need to happen for the best interests of the State of Louisiana. It is not time for the sit by and be reactive. It is time to be “PROACTIVE”!

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